BOGOTA, Colombia – Milton Pinzón held up a sign during a protest Tuesday against Colombian President Iván Duque’s tax reform in Bogotá.
“Will I have to say that I am Cuban for my protest to be valid?”
Pinzón said protesters on Colombia’s independence day were standing against an “incoherent” government that criminalizes dissent at home and praises it abroad. Amid years of asymmetric civil war, Cuba allied with Marxist–Leninist guerrilla groups and the U.S. supported the military.
In April, Duque’s tax reform plan caused a nationwide uprising. Duque’s administration reported radical leftist “terrorists” infiltrated protests to cause havoc. His defense minister deployed the militarized national riot police.
The risk of rising taxes and the unsolved murders of social leaders motivated Sonia Hernández to participate in several marches in Bogotá. She said she was more afraid of harassment by the police than of the vandals who created an environment of insecurity for those who wanted to demonstrate peacefully.
“When people go out to march, the policemen lock up. When the marches go between blocks, the police attack with tear gas to make people disperse, even when people are not doing anything, “Hernández said in Spanish. “Sometimes the people are calm and the police attack.”
Videos of shootings, beatings, and arrests concerned human rights activists. Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization based out of New York, reported evidence that shows Colombia’s law enforcement is to blame for the deaths of 25 protesters.
Marco Ruiz, who was visiting Bogotá from Miami in April, participated in a march. He said the protests there were more heated in the more impoverished neighborhoods in the southern parts of the city.
“I didn’t see the violence, but poverty is not a crime. The videos show everything. Some of them were students. There were girls. No one pays because in Colombia there is so much impunity,” Ruiz said.
On Tuesday, a much smaller crowd of peaceful protesters demanded justice. Natalia Marquez, who was protesting in Bogotá, said she was outraged when Colombia’s foreign ministry demanded that the communist regime in Cuba “guarantee the freedom of expression” and “respect the right” to protest.
“People were killed in Colombian protests,” Marquez said. “Meanwhile, they are defending Cuban protesters, so I think it’s hypocritical.”